Season 1 of Career Mode in FIFA16, and I battled my way through to the League 1 Playoff Final at Wembley.
0-0 all the way through the 90 minutes and extra time. A typical game of modern professional football: mutual nullification, enlivened only by the idea of the match – i.e., what was at stake – rather than the football itself.
Penalties. My entire season, and the fate of FIFA16, comes down to this.
Here is the whole shootout – me in the blue and white stripes, needless to say. Martin Tyler and the ever-egregious Alan Smith are rooting for the home team, Chesterfield:
And promotion to the Championship!
I found myself feeling very excited about what players I would bring in, and how I would cope on World Class difficulty.
I decided to advance to the start of the next season so I could begin my next play-session with a match.
The weeks ticked by. A performance review was coming, my messages said. I smiled. I got promotion! Howzat!
Then – THIS:
I didn’t quite believe it. I read the email, and still didn’t quite believe it.
I’ve gone back and replayed my last save a few times, thinking I might have to win the final match in 90 minutes rather than just draw it. I’ve done that, and got the same outcome each time.
No way back. I’ve Googled this, and it seems to be a Career Mode ‘thing’.
Season 1 of Career Mode in FIFA16 isn’t quite at an end yet. Disappointingly, my swashbuckling surge towards the top of the League just failed to carry me into the final promotion spots. A costly couple of nil-nils left me stranded in 3rd at the final reckoning:
Which meant a playoff final for promotion to the Championship.
For all my long years of Master League and occasional forays into FIFA, I’ve not played in many play-offs. Master League has rarely featured them, When play-offs have been included (which edition?), I’ve rarely had to participate to my recollection. I haven’t played enough FIFA to have been in playoffs. So this here playoff might be only my second or third such experience in all my footy-gaming years.
I did feel the weight of pressure. A long season and a lot of matches all coming down to this.
My opponents were Southend. One of the teams who’d held me to one of the nil-nils that’d proved so costly in the run-in. I didn’t bear a grudge.
I won the first leg, away, 1-0. It was fairly comfortable.
The home leg was all very sedate until early in the second half, when Southend scored to level things up on aggregate. Then they cheekily got another to make it 0-2 to them. 1-2 on aggregate.
Getting back into matches isn’t even nearly as straightforward in FIFA16 as it almost always is in PES2016. So this was Big Trouble.
Here is the rest of that match, from the 56th minute all the way to the close of business:
Phew. Probably the best single match I’ve had on FIFA16 so far. Not because the play was particularly fine. But because of what it meant, and the way events panned out.
I scored the aggregate equaliser with the last kick of the ninety minutes. 2-2. Alan Smith’s instant remark about me needing another because of Southend’s extra away goal made me frown, as I was pretty sure that away goals only count double after extra time. And so it proved.
I got my winner so early in extra time that I was hanging on for the rest of it.
So I am through to the final. Which I have yet to play at the time of writing (Monday evening).
I’ve already decided that if I don’t win, I won’t persist with this Career Mode career. I don’t think there’s time between now and PES2017 for more than 3 or 4 seasons.
I’m toying with the idea of recording and posting the whole match on Friday, but as ever I’m firmly convinced that watching other people play football games is one of the dullest things that can be done. So I won’t do that. It’ll be some sort of highlights again.
I’ve spent so much quality time playing FIFA16 this week that I don’t have time for a very long post today.
Up there is the very latest table. With 42 of 46 league matches played in a very long season, I’m just outside the automatic promotion spaces. A playoff place is all but certain.
My plan was to get promotion in Season 1 and then switch to World Class difficulty for Season 2 in the Championship. This looks like it’s going to happen.
Here’s a highlights reel of my last few sessions. In this video you may see that the game has started to come together for me.
Quite a variety of moments on show there. My pick of them is the ‘pass with purpose’ straight into Rashford’s feet at around 1:20. His first touch is poor and the ball bobbles up, and of course with my shooting predilections I went straight for the volley…
I’m really loving FIFA16’s long aerial through-balls, or Hail Marys as I think of them. Great when they come off, as two of them do in the above compilation.
The game on Professional has clicked to the extent that I’m not trying (so much) to play it as if it’s PES.
For one thing, the slide tackles. Slide-tackles are a hideously overpowered monstrosity in PES2016.
In PES2016, the slide tackle makes your defensive strategy simple: sprint your players until they’re in position to slide, and then slide, slide, slide, slide, slide, until you get the ball back. After hundreds of matches of PES2016, slide-tackling is baked so deeply into my muscle memory that I wonder if I’ll ever get rid of it now.
Hopefully I will re-educate myself to defend properly. Slide-tackling is barely anything at all in FIFA16. Sliding’s range is short and its effectiveness very low. Maybe one slide-tackle per match will come off, and then that’s usually a toe-ender by a defender that concedes a corner.
On the negative side I’ve noticed some very obvious scripting shenanigans.
It’s very noticeable that when I’m winning, it becomes incredibly difficult to keep possession. There are blatant instances of my players passing the ball out of play for no reason at all, and that sort of thing.
I’m familiar enough with this football game by now to know when I’ve blundered and when the invisible hand of scripting is in play.
Scripting is a necessary evil in footy gaming. It’s what makes football games great. But some degree of subtlety is advised. FIFA16’s scripting is surprisingly unsubtle.
By Tuesday I’ll have played the last few matches of the season, and hopefully won promotion.
I was toying with the idea of live-streaming the decisive match(es), but doing so would affect my style of play too much and ruin the experience for me. This is why the players in the imminent Gamescom vids are almost universally terrible. Everybody tries to play the way they think other people will approve of.
Football gaming is entirely a private pastime for me and always will be. Everything great in football gaming is based around a single player sitting alone in a room.
I’ve played another session since the above screenshot was taken, a session in which I had several ruinous draws and a defeat and slipped down to the bottom end of the playoff places.
Seasons in Career Mode are incredibly long, so there’s some way to go.
My target for FIFA16 is promotion at the first time of asking – hence keeping it on Professional. Which I would be doing anyway, as I’m not finding Professional easy at all. The low-quality players really ‘shine’ through. I’m having an old-school ML Default-type experience here in FIFA16 in Career Mode, and loving it.
Gameplay is sometimes rather stodgy, in a way that negatively reminds me of FIFA14, but that accounts for perhaps 5% of the overall experience. The remaining 95% is composed of really deep, really satisfying, really engrossing football gameplay.
Going 1-0 down in FIFA16 with a team of knackered League 1 players on the pitch, and then going down to 10 men, really poses a problem. ‘How on Earth am I going to get back into this match?’
In many other recent football games, that wouldn’t be a problem at all. Getting back into the match would just happen. It would happen so routinely that you’d barely even notice.
The watchwords of recent football games are ‘fun’ and ‘flowing’. Which simply isn’t what football games should be all about, but I’ve already flogged that horse to death repeatedly.
FIFA16 is also surprisingly deep tactically. Moving the ATT/DEF levels (to use PES-style nomenclature) up and down using the d-pad is, in FIFA16, the most effective I’ve ever seen in any football game,
Keeping it on Defensive, or lower, pins your full-backs in their own half, seeing them rarely stray beyond the halfway line.
Increase it just a notch towards the Attacking side and your full-backs go haring down the wings. If you then concede possession, the AI will seek to exploit the space left by the marauding full-backs. Football 101.
All-out Attack sees every player camped out in and around the opposition penalty box – which invites devastating counter-attacks from the AI.
I’ve been having tight, tense matches, usually decided by the odd goal, or no goals at all. It’s a high quality football gaming experience. FIFA15 was a superb game, and so is FIFA16, so much so that I believe anybody who thinks differently must have an agenda other than football gaming itself.
As late as the 1970s there were still Japanese soldiers in the wild who refused to acknowledge wartime surrender. Today there are still self-styled hardcore PES fans living in the depths of the jungle who refuse to acknowledge any value in FIFA. It’s all about identity, in my opinion. They want to express the kind of individual and group identity that ‘we’ used to have, way back in the day. Sadly, that identity pretty much died on the day PES2008 came out.